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Brenman-Gibson, M. (1977). The Creation of Plays: With a Specimen Analysis. Psychoanal. Rev., 64(2):237-288.

(1977). Psychoanalytic Review, 64(2):237-288

The Creation of Plays: With a Specimen Analysis

Margaret Brenman-Gibson, Ph.D.

The whole man must … move at once.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

I. The Background and Problems of the Method

I hope you will not find it merely personal that I preface what I have to say about the creation of a play with a history of how I came to this undertaking. It is in the spirit of a mode of inquiry and of thought which seeks to accumulate psychohistorical evidence for any proposition that I tell you a portion of this background. In a field of study where disciplined subjectivity is the prime available research tool, the investigator's relation to the segment of experience he is studying becomes an indispensable part of the data.14 To be sure, to paraphrase Polanyi, not only can we “know more than we can tell,” we usually do.29 We psychoanalysts are not, alas, in the enviable position of contemporary physicists whose accounts of the relation of the observer and the observed can remain manifestly impersonal.20 This makes our task more difficult. Nonetheless, it is occasionally possible to describe in broad outline the interactions between the observer of what we loosely call creative processes and the practicing artist. All of this is by way of explanation for the detailed account that follows.

In late July 1963, in a period of renewed hope that the nuclear test-ban treaty had given all of us and our children an unexpected reprieve from the forces of evil, I was on vacation, busy reading in manuscript a colleague's book about two men whose relationship on the stage of history had engaged, moved, and mystified the entire world: Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers.

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